Of front rolls and frog jumps It was some four decades ago that I was commissioned in the Indian Navy. I was of course beaming with pride when I got into train from Bangalore in the Island Express to Kochi (then called Cochin). Having decided in school that I would join the forces to avenge the defeat at the hands of the Chinese in 1962, I was elated on my being selected by the Services Selection Board (SSB). I was eagerly looking forward to the training and induction into the Indian Navy then a fledgling service. I was filled with joy as the train passed through ‘God’s Own Country’ the next morning. The train rolled in to Cochin Island Terminus and I got off from the train. On alighting from the train with heavy trunks (acquired as per Navy specifications), I was looking around for the reception team. I did run in other trainees who were to join the same course. A senior sailor of the navy arrived on the platform and we approached him for information. We wanted to know where the orderlies for helping us were. The senior sailor gave a dirty look and ordered us to carry the luggage without external help. On coming out with the unwieldy luggage with difficulty, I was looking out for a car but saw a rickety three tonner in blue colour instead. So I asked the senior sailor as to where was the car. I was asked to shut up and get into the truck. Disillusioned this time with the treatment given to ‘to-be commissioned officers’ we were wondering whether we were indeed selected to be officers. On reaching the mess we were assigned rooms and asked to report after having a crew cut. The navy did not allow moustache those days and whatever tender growth there was on the upper lip was removed mercilessly under the watchful eyes of the sailor-in-charge. What followed us exposed us to what it was to be ragged by seniors in the services. They stalked us and ordered us to report to them in batches after mess/working hours. I was asked by a senior if I knew what was the length of the corridor in front of his room. When I told him it should be about 100 feet, he said that each front roll meant three feet and so if I was correct, then I would complete 33 front rolls… I did not and the unit of measurement was changed to back rolls. I was dizzy at the end of it and had lost count when I was asked to sing. While my name and ancestry is Tamil, having been in Karnataka for most part of my life, my knowledge of Tamil was limited. I was forced to sing a song in Tamil. No sooner did I start singing than I was asked to shut up as apparently my Tamil rendition was not exactly music to my tormentor’s ears. I came in for more punishment and was exposed to many other forms of ragging and was even taught frog jumping. Soon, frog jumps replaced front rolls as a measure of distance. Well, there is so much more that one could share. The ragging was part of the upbringing considered a healthy practice till it got out of hand even in the services. There was a death in the academy forcing the services to come down heavily to prevent ragging. Now, I hear there is no more ragging in the services.